Coral, silver and gold in Dalmatia

February 26, 2022 – Following our article dedicated to traditional jewelry from Istria, a look at the intricate filigree pieces traditionally worn in Dalmatia

In the first part of this series, we wrote about medieval jewelry discovered in Istria that has only recently seen a revival in the form of handcrafted replicas.

Traditional Dalmatian jewelry, however, has historically been an integral part of folk costumes throughout the region and has been worn and treasured by generations of women down to the present day.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important designs found in Dalmatia:

Pag pearl necklace and earrings / Paški peružini i ročini

First, a quick disclaimer: depending on who you ask, the island of Pag is part of Kvarner, part of Dalmatia, or neither, nor both. We will let the inhabitants of Pag define their cultural identity as they see fit, and include the island in this particularity based on the common traits of traditional Pag jewelry and those found in the rest of Dalmatia.

The traditional costume of the island of Pag owes much of its distinctive appearance to the triangular headdress worn by women, made of starched white linen and edged with intricate lace.

Pag lace is a staple, but if you look closely you will see that the ladies are also adorned with jewels when dressed in traditional clothing. It has been worn in Pag since the 16th century, and since there were no master goldsmiths living on the island at the time, the jewelry was imported from Venice.

Pag folk costume / Image of Hotel Biser

There are two distinct types of jewelry worn as part of Pag folk costume. Delicate beads made using the filigree technique are called peruzin; string several together and you get a beautiful necklace. Decorative hairpins with a single peruzin were used to help hold the headdress in place, as seen in the photo above. It should be mentioned that the traditional peruzini were once designed to weigh exactly 123 grams each!

pagperuzini.jpgA modern replica of Pag peružini / Image by Zlatarnica Jozef Gjoni

The other distinctive piece found on Pag are the rocinibell-shaped dangling earrings usually in silver or gold.

MG_0731.jpgA modern replica of Pag ročini / Image by Zlatarnica Jozef Gjoni

Šibenik button / Šibenski botun

Arguably the most popular piece on this list, the intricate Šibenik button was once a decorative element of male folk costumes. Nowadays, it is one of the most recognizable symbols of Šibenik which doubles as an authentic souvenir. And although the pattern is still present in men’s accessories – tie clips, cufflinks – it is no longer exclusive to men and is also found in women’s jewelry.

Similar to Pag peruzin, the Šibenik button is a hollow filigree bead consisting of two interlinked half-spheres. Traditionally, the knob was silver, but today you’ll also find modern replicas in gold, rose gold, and aluminum. It is also called chip and tokaand was known to come in different sizes and designs depending on the intended use.

381px-Sibenska_puceta.jpgDifferent versions of Šibenik buttons

Even though there are metal buttons discovered in Dalmatia that date back to antiquity, the famous decorative bead was not widely adopted as part of traditional dress until the 17th century.

As mentioned, they were only worn by men at the time and were an indicator of social status and rank. Buttons were essentially comparable to military medals, as they were awarded to heroes and regional commanders by Venetian generals based in Zadar.

Over time, the Šibenik button became so popular that a large number of craftsmen, from northern Dalmatia to southern Albania, specialized in the filigree technique in order to be able to create the orbs. complex.


Šibenik button earrings / Image by Zlatarnice Rodić Facebook

Zlarin coral / Zlarinski koralji

For a little interlude on our watermark-laden tour, we head to the island of Zlarin just off the coast of Šibenik, historically known for one rather specific thing: coral.

The people of Zlarin have been dealing with the harvesting and processing of coral since the 14th century; although harvesting is no longer so common, Zlarin is still home to a handful of skilled artisans who create unique coral jewelry.

0001395327l0y84gha.jpgRed coral necklace / Šibenik Tourist Board

Red coral, also called precious coral, thrives in clean waters and grows at depths of 30 to 200 meters. In its natural state, it is covered with a crust that must be filed down to reveal its intense red color; the skeleton is then cut into smaller pieces, each of which is filed, shaped and polished. Polishing is the most crucial step, a process that can take up to a few days and results in a great shine. The color has a range of 10 to 15 shades, varying from a light red to a deep red.

The art of coral harvesting was a skill passed down from father to son. Coral was historically harvested by trawl, using a tool called inženj, a wooden cross weighted with a heavy stone and equipped with fishing nets. The corals became entangled in the nets as they dragged on the seabed and broke when the nets were pulled out of the sea.

Zlarin fishermen went on harvesting expeditions all over the Adriatic—sometimes straying even farther, as far as Greece—and sold the catch in Sicily.

koralji.jpgRed coral / Zlarin tourist office

After the fall of the Venetian Republic which controlled the coral trade in the Adriatic, the inhabitants of Zlarin obtained the exclusive right to fish for coral. As elsewhere in the Mediterranean, the coral was overexploited due to its value until it was nearly eradicated, and so the practice gradually became less common by the mid-20th century.

Nowadays, the island is home to two coral shops run by jewelers who carry on the tradition. Zlarin is also set to get a Croatian Coral Center, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the history of coral harvesting on the island which is expected to open very soon.

Konavle / Konavoske verižice & fjočice earrings

We head further south to the Konavle region near Dubrovnik, home of the elegant Konavle earrings.

the to verify Konavle hoop earrings have a small pendant, usually a pearl or coral bead. In the past, there was a social order to wearing jewelry in Konavle: young girls wore smaller earrings, and the older women got, the more they could wear large earrings. Young men were known to give their brides the lovely hoops as gifts before their wedding day.

Traditional jewelry was handled with care and stored in decorative wooden boxes or special compartments in chests. The best pieces were only worn on rare special occasions, as jewelry was considered a family heirloom and was passed down from generation to generation.

Another popular type of earrings in Konavle are the so-called fjočice. Worn by brides on their wedding day and the first year of their marriage, the drop earrings featured several gold filigree pendants.

Croatian Post paid tribute to the beautiful fjočice with its own postage stamp, created by designer Alenka Lalić from Zagreb:


Interestingly, the Konavle earrings were not made in the Konavle region, but were instead made by goldsmiths in Dubrovnik. In the 19th and 20th centuries, goldsmith workshops focused mainly on traditional jewelry, driven by the growing demand from Konavle and the wider Dubrovnik region.

Dubrovnik earrings / Dubrovački peružini

As Dubrovnik was an important center of goldsmithing from medieval times to the mid-20th century, it’s no surprise that the Pearl of the Adriatic has its own type of traditional jewelry.

You will surely recognize the peruzin motif now, the filigree hollow beads which in Dubrovnik were traditionally made of gold. Strung together, the pearls form a sumptuous necklace called kolarin.


the kolarin were most often composed of 12, 14, 16 or 18 peruzin pearls, either simply strung on a silk ribbon, or connected by small golden links, pearls or coral beads. They were known to feature a heart-shaped pendant or a golden cross, making them a stunning piece usually worn on special occasions.

Nowadays you will most often find earrings or pendants representing the Dubrovnik peruzin pearl.

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